Friday, 21 January 2022

Review: The Red Palace by June Hur

Joseon (Korea), 1758. There are few options available to illegitimate daughters in the capital city, but through hard work and study, eighteen-year-old Hyeon has earned a position as a palace nurse. All she wants is to keep her head down, do a good job, and perhaps finally win her estranged father's approval.

But Hyeon is suddenly thrust into the dark and dangerous world of court politics when someone murders four women in a single night, and the prime suspect is Hyeon's closest friend and mentor. Determined to prove her beloved teacher's innocence, Hyeon launches her own secret investigation.

In her hunt for the truth, she encounters Eojin, a young police inspector also searching for the killer. When evidence begins to point to the Crown Prince himself as the murderer, Hyeon and Eojin must work together to search the darkest corners of the palace to uncover the deadly secrets behind the bloodshed.

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📌 Publication date: 25/01/2022
📌 Disclaimer: I received an e-arc from the publisher for review

The Red Palace is a YA murder mystery set in Korea, 1758. Often with mysteries I don't care too much about the characters, it's more how the mystery aspect plays out that peeks my interest. However, I have to admit that the mystery isn't what I found most compelling about this book. As someone who enjoys history, it was learning about Korea in the set time period that fascinated me.

The Red Palace is only 336 pages long which gives it a fast paced feeling, and has you turning the pages eager to find out what happens next. The main character, Hyeon, is the illegitimate daughter of a high ranking official. Her hard work and drive has allowed her to become a palace nurse despite her status and class. I felt for her and her determination to prove her worth to her father. 

I'm usually a fan of angst-y romance, but the subtle and sweet romance between Hyeon and the police inspector, Eojin, was wonderful. There were some great tropes, and while it took a back seat to the main plot there was still undercurrents throughout. 

I will be keeping an eye out for future books by June Hur, for sure. 


Sunday, 16 January 2022

Review: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor's son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

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📌 Publication date: 20/01/2022
📌 Disclaimer: I received an e-arc from the publisher for review 

I was drawn to Daughter of The Moon Goddess, because the captivating description and cover. It's the first book in a planned duology, inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess, Chang'e. It follows the moon goddess' daughter, Xingyin, as she is forced to flee her home. 

Told in three parts, it moves from the present to the future. Time jumps are hard to pull off, because they can often feel rushed and abrupt, but it worked well here. Xingyin was a sympathetic main character as she went through a journey both externally and internally. Also, I don't say this a lot, but the love triangle in Daughter of the Moon Goddess didn't annoy me. I liked it because both love interests were intriguing in their own way and Xingyin wasn't mooning over them.   

Although, Daughter of the Moon Goddess is an adult fantasy it has YA cross-over appeal. I loved the mythology and magic, and appreciate the fact that it's going to be a duology, because it means there won't be unnecessary filler. I'm very much looking forward to the conclusion. 


Sunday, 9 January 2022

Review: This Woven Kingdom by Tahera Mafi

To all the world, Alizeh is a disposable servant, not the long-lost heir to an ancient Jinn kingdom forced to hide in plain sight.

The crown prince, Kamran, has heard the prophecies foretelling the death of his king. But he could never have imagined that the servant girl with the strange eyes, the girl he can’t put out of his mind, would one day soon uproot his kingdom—and the world.

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Publication date: 01/02/2022
📌 Disclaimer: I received an e-arc from the publisher for review 

I won't lie, the main reason I was excited when I heard Tahera Mafi was writing a YA fantasy trilogy is because the potential romance. I mean, unpopular opinion, but I loved the romance between Adam and Juliette in her debut, Shatter Me. I know that it takes a turn in the rest of the series, but let's not talk about that.  

I'm glad I didn't read the synopsis before diving in, because it gives away a spoiler in regards to Alizeh's identity. You don't learn about it until you're further into the book and it was nice being surprised. Inspired by Persian mythology, This Woven Kingdom, is a story about Jinn. In this world Jinn are the inferior class and humans are the higher class. I enjoyed the introduction into the world and appreciated that there was no info-dumping. If you've read Mafi's Shatter Me series you know she has a flowery writing style. which people seem to either like or dislike. Admittedly, it didn't work for me at first, but I ended up warming up to it. 

This Woven Kingdom is told from two point of views, Alizeh's and Kamran's. I loved Alizeh's hope and kindness despite her circumstances. I was also pleased that she wasn't obsessed with the love interest, Kamran. It was the opposite, actually. While I didn't completely dislike the prince, his feeling towards Alizeh were all consuming. He had that "she's so cool and not like others girls" mindset, which I'm not a fan of.

However, I still have hope in regards to the romance. We're introduced to a mysterious character towards the end of the book, and I have a feeling there is going to be a love triangle in the sequel. I'm looking forward to learning more about him. 

Despite my initial interest being in the romance, it was ultimately the plot and the main female character that got me. Also, the ending was amazing, one of the best cliffhangers I've read in a while. I think fans of Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes series will enjoy This Woven Kingdom. 


Friday, 8 October 2021

Review: A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin

I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, "These are the hands that buried my mother."

For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it's her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.

When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom's greatest shennong-shi—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning's only chance to save her sister's life.

But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.

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📌 Publication date: 22/03/2022
📌 Disclaimer: I received an e-arc from the publisher for review 

A book about a magical tea brewing competition, inspired by Chinese history and mythology? Yes, please! 

People are being poisoned by tea, it took Ning's mum's life and now her sister is sick. Determined to save her she travels to the imperial city to enter the magical tea brewing competition. The reason being because the winner will be granted a favour from the princess. Having a sister I'm close to I found Ning's loyalty and willingness to do anything for her sister relatable. 

Once Ning arrives at the imperial city she is faced with court politics and prejudices. Despite this she rallies on and even makes a friend. Which brings me to my next point. Female friendships are often lacking in the the books I read, so it was refreshing reading about Ning making a friend, as opposed to facing off with a mean girl.  

The world building in A Magic Steeped in Poison is great for people who are new to the fantasy genre, because there's no info-dumping. Instead the information is woven naturally throughout the story. As a tea lover I loved learning about the art of tea brewing, and I enjoyed the vivid picture she painted of the world.

I'm curious to see how the story concludes in the sequel. 


Friday, 3 September 2021

Review: Terciel and Elinor by Garth Nix

In the Old Kingdom, a land of ancient and often terrible magics, eighteen year-old orphan Terciel learns the art of necromancy from his great-aunt Tizanael. But not to raise the Dead, rather to lay them to rest. He is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, and Tizanael is the Abhorsen, the latest in a long line of people whose task it is to make sure the Dead do not return to Life.

Across the Wall in Ancelstierre, a steam-age country where magic usually does not work, nineteen year-old Elinor lives a secluded life. Her only friends an old governess and an even older groom who was once a famous circus performer. Her mother is a tyrant, who is feared by all despite her sickness and impending death . . . but perhaps there is even more to fear from that.

Elinor does not know she is deeply connected to the Old Kingdom, nor that magic can sometimes come across the Wall, until a plot by an ancient enemy of the Abhorsens brings Terciel and Tizanael to Ancelstierre. In a single day of fire and death and loss, Elinor finds herself set on a path which will take her into the Old Kingdom, into Terciel’s life, and will embroil her in the struggle of the Abhorsens against the Dead who will not stay dead.

📌 Publication date: 02/11/2021
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Sabriel was one of the first YA fantasy books I read. I read it so long ago that I can't remember a lot about the plot, but I do recall really enjoying it. Terciel & Elinor is the prequel and it centers around Sabriel's parents. It gave me old school YA fantasy vibes, and I found it to be equally enjoyable. 

Terciel & Elinor is essentially about two awkward teens trying to find themselves and their place in the world. Both are easy to root for as they find themselves facing down an enemy, who will be familiar to those that have read Sabriel. It also features the ever mischievous, Mogget!

While it didn't blow me away, it was still a comforting read. Perfect for autumn/winter. 


Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Review: The Color of Dragons by R.A. Salvatore & Erika Lewis

Magic needs a spark.

And Maggie’s powers are especially fickle. With no one to help her learn to control her magic, the life debt that she owes stretches eternally over her head, with no way to repay it.

Until she meets Griffin, the king’s champion infamous for hunting down the draignochs that plague their kingdom.

Neither has any idea of the destiny that they both carry, or that their meeting will set off a chain of events that will alter every aspect of the life they know—and all of history thereafter.

📌 Publication date: 19/10/2021
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Described as a "romantic pre-Arthurian tale of the origins of magic and Merlin" The Color of Dragons was a quick and easy read. 

The book alternates between Maggie's and Griffin's point of view. Maggie was a bit of a frustrating character. We're told she has street smarts, but throughout the the book she just throws herself recklessly into situations without thinking. Griffin was Maggie's opposite, complementing her perfectly. 

The world building was enough for me to get a general picture of the land. Plus, the magical ability Maggie had that was tied to the moon was interesting. However, if you're reading this for the dragons I personally found it a bit underwhelming in that aspect.  

While The Color of Dragons doesn't bring anything new to the YA fantasy genre, I found it to be a fun, if not forgettable read. 



Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Review: Witchshadow by Susan Dennard

War has come to the Witchlands . . . and nothing will be the same again.

Iseult has found her heartsister Safi at last, but their reunion is brief. For Iseult to stay alive, she must flee Cartorra while Safi remains. And though Iseult has plans to save her friend, they will require her to summon magic more dangerous than anything she has ever faced before.

Meanwhile, the Bloodwitch Aeduan is beset by forces he cannot understand. And Vivia—rightful queen of Nubrevna—finds herself without a crown or home.

As villains from legend reawaken across the Witchlands, only the mythical Cahr Awen can stop the gathering war. Iseult could embrace this power and heal the land, but first she must choose on which side of the shadows her destiny will lie.

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Two years after the release of Bloodwitch, book four in The Witchlands series, Witchshadow, is here. I have to admit that it got off to a rocky start for two reasons. The first is that I couldn't remember the events of the previous book. However, that was quickly resolved, because Dennard has kindly provided a summary here, which helped. The second reason is that the story switches from the past to the present. It was confusing and hard to follow at first, but once I got into the book it started to flow better. 

After that initial hurdle I was sucked into the story. We have multiple points of view again and as with any book with this there's going to be characters who you're more interested in than others. For me that's Iseult and Aeduan. Apparently the next book is the last in the series. If that's the case I really hope there's more scenes with Iseult and Aeduan together. There was not nearly enough of them in Witchshadow and their slow burn was torture!

Romance aside, we finally get answers to some burning questions and learn more about Leopold who I have been very intrigued about. Witchshadow is ultimately Iseult's book and she goes through a lot of growth. I've liked her from the start, so I didn't think it would be possible to love her anymore than I already do, but alas, Dennard made it so. She is, no doubt, my favourite character.

I can't wait for the next (and maybe last?) installment in the series!